This one is by reader Noni Mausa…
It’s interesting when the same incident can arouse both dismay and satisfaction at the same time. One such incident is today’s release of a new tape from Osama bin Laden, in which he mocks the United States and calls for their citizens to convert to Islam. Or so I understand from the news coverage I’ve been hearing.
My dismay arises from my certainty that this ham-handed taunt will have just the effect that Osama probably wants — pushing the United States government back into the mud wrestling pit of doomed and expensive military actions, and pushing US citizens back into making automatic and unintelligent decisions about who should lead their country and how those people should act.
My satisfaction comes from having predicted this in 2001 when the Afghan war began.
You see, in early 2002 I wrote an essay comparing the 9/11 attacks to the skillful and focused activities of a bullfighter. Normally a human being, lacking fangs, armor, claws and other weapons of retail destruction, is not much of a match against an enraged bull 10 times his size. But when handled with the right techniques, the bull doesn’t stand a chance against the bullfighter.
In one precise stroke the 9/11 attacks, which killed about as many people as a die in US automobile accidents every month, or die of cancer every two days, the 9/11 attackers induced to the United States into a series of actions so out of proportion to the insult that it can only be viewed metaphorically as the action of a picador enraging the bull.
In Spanish type bullfighting, the lone bullfighter doesn’t ever go into the ring until picadors have planted several barbed lances into the muscles of his shoulders. This weakens the bull with blood loss, enrages him and makes it hard for him to think, and causes him to lower his head. This is necessary because the final stroke of the sword which kills the bull typically goes over the shoulders and down into the heart of the bull — a
stroke which would probably be much more difficult if the bull had his head up watching the bullfighter.
Long before the bull ever enters the ring, another factor acts to weaken him in the face of his opponent — fighting bulls are carefully kept from any contact with human beings so that they will not learn how to effectively oppose them. Fighting bulls are never taught how to fight — quite the opposite.
In the light of that metaphor, look at the United States administration as they have behaved over the past six years. They have poured their wealth and their people without discrimination into a war which everyone knew could not be won. In Afghanistan they have not succeeded in the one or two items which were necessary to be accomplished — the capture of bin Laden and the weakening or destruction of the Taliban. And as for the wholehearted descent into rage and unreason and an outright refusal to act sensibly instead of passionately — this is probably the dynamic which will have the most long-term damage to the United States people and government.
And now, the picador is on his horse again. This time he doesn’t need an airplane, he doesn’t need adherents (although he has plenty, thanks to US activities worldwide) he doesn’t need to circumvent customs lines, he doesn’t even have to buy an airline ticket. All he has to do is make one videotape and hand it over, in order to see the United States (I very much fear) rouse up again in a frothing fury, abandon any fragments of returning common sense, and continue to pour out the lifeblood of their children in efforts which cannot be successful.
What can the USA do to counter such tactics? For a change, the US must act dispassionately and cost-effectively, stop throwing their substance away, and back away from the brink of disaster — if they’ve not gone over it already.
Whether or not the bullfighter is gored in the end, a bullfight always ends the same way. The only solution is for the bull to refuse the rules of the game imposed by his opponent, keep his head up, and learn as much as he can about his prospective enemies before they approach them with their brightly colored spears.
This post was by reader Noni Mausa.